By Bejay Browne
TRIBUTES have been pouring in for renowned Cypriot artist Stass Paraskos who died at his Paphos home on Tuesday aged 81.
His funeral this coming Saturday will be paid for by the state, the education ministry said yesterday. In an announcement, the ministry, which honoured Paraskos in 2005 for ‘Excellence in Art’ said it was saddened by news of the artist’s death. Minister Kyriakos Kenevezos will deliver the eulogy.
In addition to being one of the best-known Cypriot artists, Paraskos founded the Cyprus College of Art in 1969 in Famagusta. After the troubles of 1974 it relocated to Lemba village in Paphos.
It is one of the oldest art institutions in Cyprus and is held in high esteem by many artists from all over the world, and, despite its ramshackle collection of buildings, has an enviable international reputation.
‘Energetic’, ‘passionate’, ‘lyrical’ and ‘alive’ are adjectives that have often been used to describe Paraskos’ own paintings, and he himself was heard calling his rich cultural work “a window to the world” – delivering his opinions on life, politics and love through his art.
Artistic director of ‘Pafos 2017’ Dr. Marios Ioannou Elia said of the artist’s passing: “He has left a tremendous legacy and set an example for us all. He was a unique person who was highly motivated and achieved remarkable things. Paraskos created a village and Paphos will continue to be partly identified through his contribution.”
Elia continued: “He showed that it’s important to believe in your thoughts and ideas and to be tenacious, united, and in love with what you’re doing in order to succeed. His death is a great loss.”
Tributes to the art college founder are also being made by local artists, who say Paraskos did much to put Cyprus firmly on the art world’s map.
Paphos-based artist Kim Morris said: “This artist’s death is a tragic loss to the art world of Cyprus. The Cyprus college of art is recognised worldwide and especially in the UK. Even the Slade School of fine art in London recommends students to come here and study the light in Cyprus.”
Morris said the understanding of the light in Cyprus was one of Paraskos’ fortes.
“He really understood how to see the light and how light reacts on various objects. This translates into many art mediums whether its sculpture canvas or another art form,” she said.
Local resident Margaret McIntyre, who is an avid artist said: “I only paint as a hobby, I am not a professional painter, but I have lived in the area for many years and the creations at Lemba village are amazing. This is a haven for artists from all over the world and we are proud to have it on our doorstep.”
She continued, “Stass Paraskos played such an important role in establishing something wonderful not just for Paphos, but for Cyprus. I know that money is needed to carry out much needed renovations at the artists’ studios and I hope this can be accomplished soon. This art college is so important to help to nurture new and creative talent for the coming generations. Its founder will be great missed.”
Indeed, the Lemba college is the only art institution on the island that is visited regularly by television crews and newspaper journalists from all over the world. Even TV celebs, such as Carol Smiley, have called in to make a programme or two, and, Sarah Hoskins, daughter of Hollywood actor Bob Hoskins, was one of the college’s alumni.
Each year, the college attracts students from all over the world, including many from prestigious art colleges and universities such as the Royal College of Art, Leeds University and Goldsmiths College in London.
According to Paraskos they came “to be artists and escape from art experts who never pick up a paint brush but still think they can tell artists what to do”. He also said the school encouraged its students “to let Cyprus influence their work.”